tv [untitled] March 8, 2011 1:30am-2:00am PST
county came in and murdered an entire family and lit the house on fire, then the d.a. would go full hog and would prosecute the case to the nth degree. but when cases affected regular people, even a carjacking or many other crimes that i talk about in the book, those cases got put asise side because his investigator would say i don't know if we can win this one. and that one woman, she had been beaten up by her boyfriend underneath a bridge. her daughter and her niece were inside of a locked car watching, screaming to get out and they watched as he pummeled her with a tire iron and at the scene of the crime according to the police report there was a hair we've, there was one of her shoes and this was a picture in the back of her file that showed
these huge bloody contusions on her face, a stripe. she was in the hospital for three days and she couldn't work anymore because he had beaten her so badly on her back that she couldn't bend over. she was a housekeeper in a casino. i tried to figure out why wasn't this case prosecute. i talked to the victim and the perpetrator's family and i talked to the police officer and i talked to the investigator and i couldn't fitting out. why? why? why? what is wrong with that case? why didn't this case go anywhere? i went to miss wiggs. i said why didn't this case go anywhere? she said let me look back and see when was the last time a domestic violence case was prosecuted? it turns out this prosecutor hasn't prosecuted a domestic violence case in 20 years.
there are these patterns that we can't see or know because under the guise of discretion and they don't have to make it public, and if you lived in the county, all right, you might know, i know somebody who was beaten up but the case didn't go anywhere, nobody put together these patterns. that's one of the great meanings of ordinary justice. >> john, do you know miss wiggs? >> new york city but i wish i did. -- no, but i wish i did. i remember reading somewhere a few years ago that a prosecutor had never been disbarred. i think that changed this year. there was a prosecutor suspended for hiding evidence in santa clara county for the first time this year in california. but very rarely are prosecutors ever held accountable for misconduct or for unethical
conduct. why is that and what did you find in your study as it related to the kind of misconduct that was common? >> i think in order to get to that question, taking off on amy's story because i think it illustrates a common problem in prosecutors' offices around the country. but with what three simple reforms would do to help address that. that deals with the issues of transparency, accountability as you mentioned, jeff and the culture of prosecutors' offices. as both you and amy have said prosecutors are arguably the most powerful figures in our criminal justice system. they have a duty to protect the innocent and they also have a duty to convict the guilty and that powers that they have as
you described, what charges to bring. what evidence to present? who are they going to charge with that crime? these are all extraordinary, enormous powers. and we give the prosecutors this power because we believe in our public safety. but along with this extraordinary power that we grant them, we believe that they are going to do so responsibly. and that's not what is happening in a lot of cases. you know, when prosecutors abuse their power, they, you know, kind of like put their thumb on the scales of justice. the playing field is no longer level. it is clearly in the prosecutor's favor and their abuse and unethical and unconstitutional behavior really stems from a culture that is about getting a conviction.
you know, it is easy to point at cases where misconduct is blatant and evident. i think we have to take a look at all misconduct and abuse that occurs. when you talk about transparency, that's downtown transparency in a prosecutor's -- the best counter to transparency in a prosecutor's office is to open up the doors to that office sapped see what is going on. the -- and see what is going on. they have recommended that prosecutors' offices adopt and implement a set of policies and guidelines and recommend that those policies and guidelines be made available to the public but despite these recommendations, the overwhelming majority of prosecutors' offices around the
country don't have established policies and procedures and the research that we did, you know, we found that there are 2300 state prosecution offices in the country so that doesn't include city offices, county offices and the such. there is a relatively small number of prosecutors offices in the country that have actually adopted the man wells here in california. -- when they took a look at prosecute ya'll misconduct they invited comments and they only found three jurisdictions that had policies. l.a. county, ventura county and santa clara county. the california district attorney's association wrote the commission and said all the other counties have opted not to have manuels but they do require
deputies follow court rules and handle court decisions and the law. well, think about it. here you the most powerful actor in the criminal justice system. we as citizens in a community rely on them to be doing their job responsibly and ethically, yet, we have no way to measure how they are doing it because -- because as both of you have said, there is no transparency at all in that process. whereby if you do have these manuels and you do make them public, now you have a set of criteria to hold prosecutors accountable for what it is that they do. dealing with accountability, the second issue i think is highlighting the results so far in two different cases. the first case is the case of former senator ted stevens when just over a year ago attorney
generic holder threw out the conviction of senator based on gross misconduct in the case, even the judge of that case, judge sullivan, said after repeated orders from the court to the prosecutors, he had never seen a case that has seen more of use in his career. attorney general holder was right in terms of acting swiftly, in terms of throwing out that condition. he also stated that the department of justice's office of professional responsibility would investigate the actions of
the two officers, yet a year after that, we still have heard nothing out of office regarding their conduct. the department of justice has publicly talked about how they increased training in terms of discovery obligations, and they have issued memos in terms of what they are supposed to be doing, yet they have yet to do anything regarding the behavior of those prosecutors. contrast that to the case that occurred a couple years ago, that boasts -- that of the prosecutor in north carolina, where six months after the charges were brought against the lacrosse students, and they were charged with rape, the defense attorneys uncovered evidence in the files, and north carolina
is open, but they found evidence in the files showing their clients were innocent. the state attorney general immediately dismissed the charges against those individuals, and a few months after that, he was disbarred for withholding evidence and evidence of innocence as well as improper statements he made to the media. it dealt with the misconduct, and within six months, and he was disbarred. we have nothing in terms of the
behavior. this occurs across the country, and you would say these are two cases of ordinary in justice. this goes to the culture of this and seeking to convict. recently, the current district attorney -- one of the things boasted about in his retirement was they have the most convictions of any county in the
state. two other statistics coming out of that office is in the high- profile child molestation cases he filed in the 1980's, he got 26 convictions. 25 have been overturned, and they are paying civil damages to the individuals and their families who are wrongfully convicted. that is a culture of convict at no cost. how do you deal with some of these abuses? one way is you have the prosecutors manuals. another way is to open the file. prosecutorial misconduct in terms of failure to turn over evidence is really probably the
most common cause of misconduct. >> we have that issue here, so i want to come back to that. before i asked common you will have an opportunity to ask questions, -- before i asked, you will have the opportunity to ask questions. the next area i want to talk about are the courts and judges, and before i have shawn explain his experience with misdemeanor courts, where you just tell us -- he was described as a great judge, but he was violating
everybody's writes everyday, and he was thrown off the bench. tell us that story. >> this is a story of a judge in upstate new york, and he is a judge in a place called troy, new york, which has historically been a beautiful day. -- beautiful town. he got the idea he wanted to help clean up troy. if you walk the streets with hank bauer, he is a celebrity. people are hanging out their windows, do you need an umbrella? he is that type of guy. i told him i was writing a book called "ordinary in justice,"
and you are one of the main characters, and he would pick up the phone, and i could hear him smiling, because in his heart of hearts -- he has been kicked off the bench by the new york state judicial commission, but he drew the things he has done nothing wrong, -- he truly it sinks he has done nothing wrong, and when they told him -- he truly thinks he has done nothing wrong. when they told him he did things like not reading people their rights, not assigning an attorney, and pleading someone guilty without him even being in the room -- he looked at the charges commo, and he said, very serious. how does the have the reflection of himself as a good judge? everyone in his community thinks
he is a good judge and what happened to hank bauer is a grossness justice, but at the same times, he gave a $25,000 bail to a man who was riding his bike on the sidewalk without a bell, and that is a crime in troy, new york. clearly, there are lots of little kids in the suburbs riding their bikes on the sidewalk without a bell, but this guy was a homeless guy, so they arrested him. they brought him before the court. hank gave him a $25,000 bail. he did not have $25,000, so he sat in jail for eight days, and he came back and pleaded guilty. this is really the regular person that is symbolic of ordinary justice. there is a woman who has five
kids. she is a nurse. one beautiful spring day she is sitting on the stoop, and she is reading of friends hair, and the police say, do believe -- she is braiding of friends hair, and the police say, and you realize there is a no loitering sign, and she offered to get off, and they arrest her. they bring her before the judge, and they give her a $25,000 bail. she is never given an attorney, and she sits in jail for eight days. she has a relative take care of her five kids. eventually, she comes before the judge. the judge says, we will give you a couple hundred dollars as a fine, if you plead guilty, and we will call it a day. she says ok. she pleads guilty, and she thinks to herself, i will never pay the fine, and she gets the
guy who also pleaded guilty, and they have a big party. they thing, this is all over with, and a couple minutes -- a couple years later she applies for public housing, and she is rejected because she has a criminal record. she had been loitering that day, and she is not eligible for city housing, so she ends up leaving try and moving to virginia. this is the problem with the ordinary in justice. there are collateral consequences, and we end up paying for them as taxpayers. we pay for them because people cannot get a federal grants for loans for school. they go on welfare. they do not get to go to their jobs. these are the hidden cost we rarely see.
why do they love him so much if he was doing these things that are against the law? the bottom line is when hank saw of lawyer cared about the client, he would make an effort to help that lawyer, said there is one woman who is a prostitute, and she had a lawyer who keeps doing her case pro bono. she keeps getting arrested for prostitution, and each time he tried to get her help, but when no one was looking, that is when the worst thing happened. there is a guy who is the town drunk, and his name is john casey. i met him, and he was drinking an enormous 10 of the year. it was of vero -- enormous can of beer. it was unfaia barrel.
he was thrown into jail. casey walked back into the court and says, what happened to my case? the judge says, you pleaded guilty. casey walks out. people ask me, when do you think is the worst case of ordinary justice then clearly when people spend decades in prison, those kilmeade. to be innocent in prison and to have a community who thought -- those kilmeadl me. to be innocent in prison and to have a community who thought you were guilty, but there was this guy, and no one stood up. there was a line of public defenders in the first row who could have said, where is jon casey? nobody stood up, and that is one of the problems of ordinary
injustice. they become so worried about their own interests that they stop thinking about the people they are supposed to be protecting. >> we should have invited that judge to come to see what he would say. last year, our reporter went into a courtroom -- nez reporter went into a courtroom, and he sought -- a reporter went into the courtroom, and he saw the judge. he saw hundreds of people waiting for justice every day. what he did not see was a lawyer, so he took it upon himself to study it and write about it, and i am going to let you tell what happened. >> unlike judge our common and the judges in dept. 43 j judge
bauer -- unlike judge bauer common the judges in department 43 are borden. there is no one to make objections or advocate for the people who go to these courtrooms, because they have never had them there. there is no lawyers, so what happens is i go into the courtroom, and i hide behind a broad-shouldered deputy so the judge does not recognize me, and i listen and watch. the judge comes in, and everybody rises, and the judge goes through the speech she gives to the defendants who have been waiting all weekend in many cases to get out because they are there for public intoxication or failure to appear for a warrant, so they have been picked up on the weekend. i will exaggerate. she comes up and goes, you are
here charge, and you have the right to go to counsel. i will do the deal for you right now, and if you want a public defender, you can get a public defender. let's go. then what happened is a long line of guilties. guilty, guilty, guilty -- incontinent -- not guilty. no continent. guilty, guilty, guilty. i am an amateur, but even i am saying to myself, what is going on here famines -- what is going on here? i go to many of these courts and see exactly the same thing, so i start to ask what is happening, and basically, historically,
the public defender's office has never put anyone there. it is almost like a client agreement between the two not to spend the resources. the reason i was there in the first place was because san jose had become like las vegas. what we were looking into were these public intoxication charges, and if you do not know, you can be arrested for public fear intoxication if you're so drunk that you are a danger for yourself or others, and it is up to the police officer to decide whether you fit that description. i was looking at the civil rights lawsuit alleged police were misusing the slot to basically clean up the streets common so we asked out of -- miss using the law to basically clean up the streets, so we asked how many people have been arrested for intoxication, and they got back to me and said,
5000 a year. he said that is a mistake. he said, you put a 0 on the end. i called him back, and said few double check this. we were curious about what was going on in san jose, and we started to lookin into these charges, and we also started to look at other discretionary crimes, the kinds which police are the arbiters of whether or not you reach a probable cause, and we found out san jose was busting people right and left for public intoxication or resisting arrest or disturbing the peace and all sorts of crimes, and the racial disparities were off the charts
when we compare them to other cities. public intoxication, there were 57% latino people being arrested. we have 3% latino people in the city. where were these 5000 people going? they were going to department 42, where the woman judge was going guilty, guilty, guilty, incontinent. we started doing a series of stories. i keep hearing these depressing stories about how you're dealing with budgetary cutbacks, but when we did our story in the public defender's office, there was a wave of embarrassment to say the least, and within a couple months, the board of supervisors added $1 million a year to add lawyers in a lot of
misdemeanor court rooms, and starting monday, i believe they are going to start putting lawyers in the apartment 42. -- in department 42. [applause] >> id raises an interesting -- that is really incredible. this practice has been going on for years and years of not providing lawyers. it is a sea change, and because of that, there will be thousands of people who will get counsel. one of the questions i have is as a journalist, how are you able to work with defense attorneys or public defenders to bring like to ordinary in justice salmon -- bring light to ordinary injustice?
amy has written this book, and a cup of book award. -- it got a book award. [applause] how can defense attorneys or people who work in the system make that known and worked with journalists? >> i generally bring everybody out to lunch or to a bar or to both. journalists and police officers have this classic cold war, and there was even a cold war between defense attorneys and journalists -- certainly between prosecutors and reporters, and i find if i write a story they cannot just come back and say, this is wrong, and this is wrong. if they are faced with the fact
i have busted my butt to get everything right and have gone to them and really tried hard to represent my view points, then they do not have an argument about going to a bar with maie. we have people whispering to us, and that is part of the dynamic, but i find once you develop a reputation for trying hard to understand all the things you people learn in hastings and asking stupid questions over and over again -- is there a police called in continent? -- plea called in continent? if you ask the questions, eventually they explain. even the judges in santa clara county who were giving the colloquies, and the judges who would turn